Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) won a thriller of a battle as the Superprestige series came to Ruddervoorde on Sunday.
Meeusen got off to a fast start, sitting second behind Lars van der Haar (Giant-Shimano), who rocketed to the hole shot only to be dumped from contention with less than six laps remaining after Corné Van Kessel (Telenet) clipped a fence pole and took him out of the lead group.
That miscue slung Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) into the lead, and as the race wound on a powerful group of front-runners formed, among them Vantornout and his teammate Kevin Pauwels; Meeusen; Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus), who bounced back after taking a header in the sand; Jens Adams (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace); and Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink).
Meeusen looked to be on the limit as Van der Poel and Vantornout took turns driving the group. But in the final lap the Telenet rider finally showed himself, slipstreaming past Vantornout and into the lead.
He took a few seconds’ advantage, only to see it vanish in the long sand pit just before the finish as the others closed on him.
But he didn’t give up — Meeusen hit the pavement with a four-man lead group, and then led out the sprint and held his edge to the line.
“I knew that a course like the one at Ruddervoorde was my best chance,” said Meeusen. “And if I was still there in the last lap, there was a good chance that I could be cheering at the finish line. The ‘crosses that I win, there’s usually a spectacular final lap.”
Van der Poel took second ahead of Vantornout and Nys. Van der Haar, meanwhile, fought back from his misfortune to finish fifth on the day.
Van der Poel now leads the Superprestige series with 40 points. Nys sits second with 39 while Van der Haar is third with 38.
“I was good today but not aggressive enough,” said Nys. “For me, there were too many guys in the final.”
As for Vantornout, he said he ran out of gas after a long race spent either on the front or shutting down attacks on a course that he said had “too many turns and (was) too technical.”
“I had to close each gap,” he added. “I had to pay for that in the end.”
The series continues November 16 at Asper-Gavere.
Earlier in the day, Belgian cyclocross champion Sanne Cant (Enerthem-BKCP) sailed to victory in Ruddervoode.
Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Team) led early with Cant tucked in behind. Then Cant pried open a gap that nobody could close.
Wyman chased with Ellen Van Loy (Telenet-Fidea), battling for the runner-up spot.
That honor went to the British champion, while Van Loy held on for third.